The Bing Crosby Show (film #22 in the Lost Fall Previews of the 60s section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]

Bing Crosby rather boringly tells us all about his new tv series. He doesn’t show us any scenes from it or anything––he just sits in front of the camera and tells us about it. The series was not very long-lived or memorable, and maybe this explains why.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.

Captain Bondage vs. Women’s Lib (extra on The Psycho Lover/Heat of Madness DVD (Something Weird, 2003)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

Captain Bondage, who is essentially a guy in a thoroughly ridiculous black-masked superhero costume, kidnaps a woman wearing a pair of hideous-looking polyester pants and takes her to his lair, which is a suburban home filled with women tied up in various positions. All are fully clothed, though some wear skimpy outfits and high heels. In the end, Captain Bondage turns out to be his own worst enemy, because although he has created an elaborate harness get-up that allows one of his bound slaves to bring him a beer on a little platform that extends from her waist, he failed to design his mask with a mouth opening, so he can’t drink it (d’oh!). The film is silent and in garish 70s color, but is so incompetently done it looks like home movie footage. The endless scenes of tied-up women are mildly disturbing and the whole production reeks of sleaziness, yet many elements are so ridiculous they are laughable. The opening sequence, in particular, looks more like a Halloween prank than a kidnapping. I certainly can’t recommend this film because of its subject matter, but if you’re looking for a really bad film, this is it.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: BOMB.

The Middleton Family at the 1939 New York World's Fair (Moviecraft, 1994). [Category: Industrial]

This film was made by Westinghouse to promote its exhibits at the 1939 New York World's Fair. It features an "average" middle-class family who come all the way from Indiana to go to the fair, an obnoxious teenaged son who says "Gee whiz!" and plays practical jokes all the time, and a love triangle involving the daughter, a godless Commie art teacher, and a clean-cut Westinghouse engineer who talks up the company and modern technology in general every time you turn around. The scenes with the art teacher will make you cringe––he is a slimy, cranky, spoilsport who can't argue his way out of a barrel, yet tries to anyway. He also buys the daughter a cheap, costume jewelry ring from a magic shop and tells her it's a priceless heirloom that's been in the family for generations. All this is supposed to be associated with communism, lack of enthusiasm for modern technology, and abstract art, somehow. The campiest scene is probably the demonstration of Electro the Robot. He is incredibly slow-moving and clunky and his feats are vastly unimpressive––he does such "amazing" things as smoking and counting on his fingers. Yet the Middletons are incredibly impressed by him. I'm with the cranky Commie on this one. There's also lots of fun scenes of various fair exhibits, giving the viewer a feel for what it must have been like, at least in the Westinghouse building. A wonderful, well-rounded piece of ephemera about a popular subject.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.

Crazy Town (track #2 on Weird Cartoons (Rhino, 1987)). [Category: Hollywood]

Betty Boop and Bimbo have nothing better to do, so they go to Crazy Town, where everything is strange. I love cartoons like this that try to present weird alternate worlds––the 60's could only aspire to be this hallucinogenic. Amazingly, this is not the strangest of the Betty Boop cartoons––it's actually tame compared to something like Minnie the Moocher. But it's still pretty strange and quite fun.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Gabriel Over the White House (recorded off of American Movie Classics). [Category: Public Service]

This feature film qualifies as ephemera because William Randolph Hearst was responsible for it, making it to further his political philosophies. It was made during the height of the Depression and it stars Walter Huston as President Judson Hammond. The America portrayed here is very bleak and on the verge of total societal breakdown, reminding us of how desperate times were during the Depression. President Hammond starts out as a career politician who is more interested in old-boy cronyism than in the serious problems facing the country. That is, until he gets into a car accident and gets a bump on the head. That bump on the head totally changes his personality, and suddenly he becomes a strong leader who pushes through radical reforms in the government, even to the point of getting Congress to retire, proclaiming martial law, and making himself dictator. Although what he accomplishes is good for the country and its people for the most part (he puts the unemployed back to work through a “construction army”, makes out-and-out war on gangsters, and gets foreign nations to pay off their debts through a program of extreme disarmament), his methods are disturbing, especially from today’s perspective of having had very bad experiences with dictators. Of course, some of his ideas would end up being put into practice in far less radical forms by FDR, and his speech about the future of war is downright prophetic. The film is great for showing us just how desperate times were during the Depression, a time that tends to be romanticized today. And it’s a fascinating oddity, feature film though it may be, and I think that qualifies it as ephemera.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.

Amiga Dpaint Anims (film #215 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

These are some animated clips a guy made back in the early 90s on his Amiga computer in Dpaint. For animations made while just playing around on a system that is now obsolete, these are pretty fun to watch. I particularly like the starship captain with his silly creature sidekick.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Apollo 11 Facts VJSC-1425L (in the Documentary section of Open Video Project). [Category: News]

Now this is the sort of historical footage I like to stumble across. This is a good long unedited portion of the NASA television footage of the Apollo 11 mission. This is the stuff the guys in Houston were watching, and it contains all of the back-and-forth talking between the astronauts and Mission Control. Now I’ll be honest and admit that this is not one of the more entertaining pieces of ephemera out there––the video is barely visible, there are lots of times when the astronauts are outside of camera range, lots of the stuff they do is very technical and not very interesting, and it goes on and on and on. But I remember watching this stuff as a kid, and even at age 9 it held me riveted to the screen because of what a big deal it was. It was such a big deal that I felt I was a part of history just watching the first human beings set foot on the moon. This brought back those memories. If you want entertainment, go elsewhere, but if you want raw footage from what is arguably the biggest news story of the 20th century, then this is your film. In between the boring parts are the highlights of the mission, including Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the lunar surface (and his bungled line––you really hear him saying “That’s one small step for Man” here), the astronauts describing how it felt to be on the moon, the raising of the flag, and the phone call from President Nixon. If you weren’t alive yet to experience this, well, here it is, free for the downloading.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****+. Overall Rating: ****.

Benefits of Looking Ahead.

Nick, the dorky teenager from What to Do on a Date, is just as clueless about career planning as he is about dating. After his "friend" warns Nick that he will probably turn out to be a bum the way he's going (and we see a great scene of an unshaven Nick gnawing on some stale bread in a cheap hotel room), Nick turns to the rickety table he's building in shop class, which falls apart when he tries to pound a nail into it. Nick finally figures out that he needs to make a plan for his table, and then it occurs to him that maybe he should make a plan for his life as well. This guy has to be the dorkiest, most clueless hero of any of these films. He never seems to know anything about anything. I wouldn't be surprised if later on he was in films called What to Do on Your Honeymoon, Benefits of Asking for a Raise, How to Talk to Your Teenagers, or What to Do After Retirement.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Audio Commentary) (Image Entertainment, 1997 (DVD)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This alternate soundtrack on the DVD version features a commentary by Mike Budd, who mainly argues that the contrast between the film's realistic storyline and editing on the one hand, and it's expressionistic sets, makeup and acting on the other is what makes the film so weird. It's a pretty interesting argument, and Budd enhances it with a lot of contextual information about the time and circumstances in which the film was made. Unfortunately, the commentary doesn't jibe very well with the film itself, which is a lot more compelling. After awhile, I wanted the film to just stand alone without explanations. Still, there's enough interesting content in the commentary to be worth at least one viewing.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Careers in Emergency Medicine (film #3 on Oops! (A/V Geeks)). [Category: Industrial]

The first half of this film is quite interesting, as it shows a rescue squad saving the life of a little boy who falls into a swimming pool and almost drowns. The entire rescue, from the accident itself to the boys’ arrival and treatment in the emergency room, is shown straightforwardly, without narration. Then a narrator comes on and tediously goes over the various jobs involved in emergency medicine, while the same footage of the rescue is played again. This knocks a few points off the interest meter. Still, the film is a great snapshot of the state of emergency medicine during the 70s.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Babies Rolling Eggs (film #11 on America at Work, America at Leisure. Also in the Historical section of Open Video Project). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Some toddlers roll eggs down a hill, while a bunch of rough-looking older kids aggressively jostle to grab them. Eventually, this game turns into a melee among the kids, most of whom look like school bullies. This was probably some sort of Easter event. I’m glad this particular tradition didn’t make it into the present. A 1902 Edison film.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Also from MTM – The Texas Wheelers (film #5 in the Class of 1974 section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]

Jack Elam (you remember him––he played dangerously unbalanced loonies in countless 40s and 50s films) stars as a wayward father of a Texas family come home to mooch off of, uh, I mean take care of, his kids. In this promo, we see Gary Busey and Mark Hammil preparing to bury a duck. Any wonder why this series was not a success?

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

The Rolling Stones (film #6 in The British Invasion section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

60s newsreel clips of the Rolling Stones playing a prank where they pretend to be hitchhiking (something that would never be done today, due to safety concerns about stalkers), preparing for a big concert, reading fan mail, being interviewed by the press, and appearing in Australia. Unfortunately, this is all narrated and we never get to hear the stones speak or play music. This has some mild historical value, more so for Stones fans.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Fundo in Chile (film #578 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

In Chile, a wealthy landowner leaves to large fundos (farms/ranches) to his sons when he dies. One son, Juan, pretty much ignores the fundo and parties away his wealth in the city. The other son, Roberto, institutes all kinds of reforms on his fundo, such as making use of modern technology, irrigating the fields, improving the workers’ living conditions, and providing all sorts of social services for them. This is basically another Goofus and Gallant film, though it does provide a snapshot into the ways of life 1940s pre-revolutionary Chile.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Horrible Horror (Goodtimes, 1986). [Category: Commercial]

TV horror movie host Zacherly hosts this collection of clips, trailers, and various other goodies from horror and science fiction genres. Zacherly is the best host I've seen on this kind of collection. It looks like he's just ad-libbing, and he's a great ad-libber. Mostly, it just looks like he's having a lot of fun. The collection here is quite interesting––there's lots of clips of classic and classically bad moments from these films, quite a few trailers, and lots of other miscellaneous goodies, such as 50's TV clips, bloopers from Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and scenes from old interviews with Bela Lugosi. Fans of cheesy horror and science fiction should particularly enjoy this.


  • This tape has my all-time favorite trailer: the classic Killer Shrews trailer, featuring Dr. Radford Baines from the "Department of Information". He tells us about shrews and then urges us to report any sightings of giant killer shrews to our local authorities. Is this the biggest invitation to crackpots and pranksters ever, or what?
  • One particularly obscure and interesting item is a scene from the 50's TV series "You Asked for It" which features Electro the Robot, the robot built by Westinghouse for the 1939 New York World's Fair. He's big and blocky and talks in a monotone. It's hard to believe that audiences of the day were impressed with him, though they were. Here he says, "My brain is bigger than yours," and blows up a balloon until it pops. Wow!
  • There's two bizarre Bela Lugosi interviews on this tape: in one, he scares the silly female interviewer away by pretending to hear voices, and in the other, he claims that "Dracula goes on forever," whatever that means.
  • You not only get to see the incredibly silly cowboy-hatted robots in The Phantom Empire, but you also get to find out that they reappeared in another serial––Captain Video!
  • Gimmick Alert! In 13 Ghosts, you can only see the ghosts with the help of a special "Ghost Viewer", demonstrated helpfully by William Castle himself! The producers of The Screaming Skull will pay funeral expenses for any member of the audience who dies of fright! Macabre has a similar insurance policy, but warns us it does not cover anybody with a known heart condition or suicides!
  • Msties, take note: contains clips or trailers from The Killer Shrews, Bride of the Monster, Indestructible Man, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, War of the Colossal Beast, Robot Monster, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, The Phantom Creeps, The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy, The Undersea Kingdom and The Screaming Skull.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Amelie Moments in the Prelinger Archives (film #35 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Spuzz, a regular reviewer of Prelinger films, put together this short compilation of unscripted, behind-the-main-action moments from Prelinger films. These are fun moments, though they could have been edited a little bit tighter. This really makes me want to put together my own compilation films, though. It also makes me really want to check out A Visit to Santa––this film looks hideous! And I love the ending!

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Apollo 11 Crew Preparing for the Moon Mission (film #4 in the Apollo 11 section of WPA Film Library). [Category: News]

Silent footage of the Apollo 11 crew practicing various things they will be doing on the mission, such as getting in and out of the capsule, experiencing zero gravity, and getting pulled out of the ocean after splashdown. This has some historical interest, but I wish they’d included some sound.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.

Candy for Your Health (film #17 in the Documentary section of Movieflix). [Category: Industrial]

Ah, the good old days, back when doctors used to recommend eating candy between meals! This 20s silent film has some wonderful factory tour footage of Love Nest candy bars being made by the Euclid Candy Company. A fun trip back to a sweeter time.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Up on Cloud Nine unsold tv pilot excerpts (film #9 on TV Turkeys (Rhino, 1987)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Here's another great idea for a sitcom: wacky stewardesses! And all the comical mistakes they make at 20,000 feet! Such as mistaking a pilot's request for dinner service for an announcement of an emergency landing (hyuck! hyuck!)! I mean, wouldn't that be funny if it happened to you? Fortunately, this series never got off the ground, but its pilot will live forever thanks to the miracle of home video. It looks like this was never even shown on tv, but only to prospective sponsors––it starts with "Your Product Presents..." I'm surprised the makers of Dramamine didn't buy it.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

AWOL – All Wrong Old Laddiebuck (film #1 on Origins of American Animation). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Private Snafu’s dad probably starred in this WWI-era military training toon. A not-too-dedicated doughboy, tired of waiting for discharge after the armistice, goes out on a joy ride (says so on the car) with Miss A.W.O.L. He gets into all kinds of trouble, of course, culminating in having to cool his heels in the stockade while all his buddies get to go home. This is a great example of early ephemera, well preserved, with lots of amusing rubbery animation. A 1919 American film.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Big Bertha (film #8 in the Kids with Guns section of TVParty).[Category: Commercial]

Hyperbolic, and thus quite campy, commercial for a big toy tank with three different kinds of guns on it, just perfect if you want your little tyke to grow up to be a war monger. And it’s sold only at Food Marts, so you know it’s pure and wholesome. Appalling, and quite fun.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Risque Matinee (film #15 on Blood of Floor Sweepings (LSVideo). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

A housewife discovers a brochure from a strip club in her husband’s suit jacket, and, rather than getting mad, she uses it for educational purposes. Good thing she was only wearing a pair of thong panties under her apron. This cockamaimie plot could only appear in a stag film, and one can only laugh at the male fantasies this was designed to appeal to.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Forgotten Village (film #1 on Feature Films). [Category: Public Service]

This sensitively-done 30s documentary tells the story of Juan Diego, a young man who lives in a tiny Mexican village, where people live a traditional rural lifestyle that has changed little over thousands of years. The only link with the outside world is Juan’s schoolteacher, who gives the village children a bit of knowledge of the modern world. When the children of Juan’s village start sickening and dying in droves, Juan goes to his teacher for help. The teacher suspects that the village well is spreading an infectious disease, and he encourages Juan to go to a nearby city and get a public health team to come and help. Unfortunately, the villagers rely on a local medicine woman for healthcare, and they are extremely hostile to new ideas. When Juan returns with the medical team, most of the families hide their sick children from them, and when they try to disinfect the well, the villagers accuse them of poisoning it. In desperation to cure his seriously ill younger sister (he already lost a brother to the illness), Juan sneaks her to the medical team in the middle of the night to get her an injection of a curative serum, but his father catches him afterwards and orders him to leave the village and never return. The medical team, however, make arrangements for Juan to attend a special school for young people who want to bring modern medicine to their villages. They reassure Juan that change happens slowly, and that it will be young people like him who will finally bring such changes about. This is an intelligent and sensitive film that is not too hard on the villagers who reject the medical team’s interventions. This makes it more enlightened than you’d expect for the time it was made. Of course, by today’s standards, it has some problems––it gives no context for the villagers’ suspiciousness of outsiders coming in and trying to change their ways, which may encourage audience members to think of them as just ignorant and stubborn. And it shows no downside to modernity, whereas from today’s perspective we know that modern ways, with their medical miracles and conveniences, have a tendency to destroy traditional ways of life, leaving little for poor rural people to take its place. Still, this film is a wonderful documentation of those ways of life, as well as providing a historically interesting snapshot of public health practices in Mexico during the 30s.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****+. Overall Rating: *****.

The Challenge of Ideas (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #282 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Edward R. Murrow hosts this early-60s film, which seems to be designed to explain the Cold War to service personnel, though there is also some implication that it may have been shown to the general public as well. A motley assortment of stars, such as John Wayne, Lowell Thomas, and Helen Hayes also appear at various points to explain the ideological differences between the capitalist and communist systems, i.e. Why We’re Right and They’re Wrong. It’s not quite as intelligent as the presence of Murrow would suggest, but it’s not quite as jingoistic as the presence of Wayne would suggest. As such, it’s kind of annoying. It does have a great deal of historical interest, though, as a portrait of what the American government wanted its citizens to believe about the Cold War.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Better Breakfasts USA

Better Breakfasts, USA. An early-60s school class takes a field trip to a TV station. But instead of learning about television production,...